Leaving Cert biology: Most students happy with ‘broad but fair’ exam

Higher level ‘easier’ but ordinary level more difficult than normal

Leaving Cert students  Jake Turley,Eleanor Hartnett and Annabelle Ponsonby following today’s exams at Sandford Park School, Ranelagh, Dublin.  Photo: Tom Honan

Leaving Cert students Jake Turley,Eleanor Hartnett and Annabelle Ponsonby following today’s exams at Sandford Park School, Ranelagh, Dublin. Photo: Tom Honan

 

Almost 35,000 students faced into a “broad but fair” Leaving Cert biology exams on Wednesday afternoon.

Susan Silke, biology teacher at The Institute of Education, said the language used was “nice and clear” with questions on large sections of the course.

“Some of the tougher questions on plant reproduction and protein synthesis would have given stronger students the opportunity to show their knowledge,” she said.

While section A - short questions - were straight-forward, she said photographs of the stages of cell division in question four may have confused some students.

Some aspects of section C - long questions - may proved tricky. She said question 10, part b was on ecology and invasive mammal species.

“Part B (iv) was an unusual question , which some students would have found challenging to answer” she said.

She said it was nice to see a whole question appear on protein synthesis in question 11 was on genetics.

“This is not an easy topic and students who had spent the time preparing it will be pleased. It was also nice to see, in part C, a question on sex linkage, presented as a pedigree diagram,” she said.

Growing gulf

Luke Saunders, Studyclix.ie founder and a biology teacher at Jesus and Mary Secondary School Enniscrone, Co Sligo, said that the “higher paper was at the easier end of the spectrum while the ordinary one was far more difficult than normal.”

Mr Saunders said that a comparison of the new Junior Cycle common science paper and the Leaving Cert biology papers shows that a gulf has grown between the way we examine science at junior and senior levels.

“Yesterday’s Junior Cycle science paper was all about assessing scientific literacy and asking students to reflect on contemporary issues from a scientific viewpoint.

“Today’s biology is much more in keeping with tradition in that it rewards students with the ability to recall huge amounts of factual information,” he said.

Mr Saunders said that some students may have struggled with a question on the stages of mitosis, but most would have answered the “very straightforward question on human reproduction”.

“The experiment question would have posed no major difficulty. Overall I feel today’s paper would have been well received and offered plenty of choice to students who were well prepared,” he said.

The ordinary level paper also featured a set of questions on mitosis, but Mr Saunders said that the quality of the images attached to the mitosis questions at both higher and ordinary levels were “really poor quality and unfair, and added unnecessary levels of confusion.”

Try this at home:

- Leaving Cert biology (higher level)

Write notes on three of the following topics: (i) Vaccination. (ii) Antibiotic resistance in bacteria. (iii) The mechanism of phototropism or of geotropism in plants. (iv) Batch food processing. (v) The sounds created during the cardiac cycle.